Good Friday - The Way of the Cross

 

As we journey through Passion Week and approach Good Friday and Easter Sunday, we want to encourage you to create some space in your communities and in your personal time this week to process the way of the cross. It’s easy for many of us to want to skip ahead to Sunday, to the resurrection, to the fulfillment of the promises of God. It’s true that Jesus is alive today, and he has raised us up with him and seated us in heavenly places, but we also live in the tension of our current lives. Of yet-to-be-fulfilled promises. The now, but not yet of the Kingdom of God. For this reason, it is important for us to pause as we approach the cross of Jesus.

 

At the cross, God meets all of the parts of our lives and our world that are not what they could, or should, be. At the cross, God finds us in our pain, in our doubts, in our confusion, in our weakness, in our sin. At the cross, through the suffering of his son, God stands in solidarity with all who are suffering and all who have ever suffered, especially those who have suffered at the hands of violent men.

 

This, perhaps, is why Friday is worthy to be called “Good.” On Good Friday, we are given the revelation of a Good God. A God who would come to us, just as we are, and meet us in the mess. In the questions. In the now and not quite yet.

 

Sunday is coming. The grave is empty. But let us pause this week and consider the suffering of our savior, and in so doing, we may just discover him in parts of our lives that we would never have expected.

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Questions to Consider

1. Who in our world is suffering the most? How can you pray for them this week? What would you say to them about the suffering savior who moves toward those on the margins?

2. What part of your life have you been temped to view as unapproachable to Jesus? How is he revealing himself in that place this week?

3. What in your life must experience a necessary death on Friday in order to experience a real, lasting resurrection on Sunday?

EHS - Ch. 10

Do you live off of someone else's spirituality rather than experiencing and knowing God for yourself?

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Chapter 10 is all about taking ownership of our own spiritual walk with God,  compiling all that we have learned throughout this book to develop a Rule of Life.
 

Scazzero writes, "A Rule of Life, very simply, is an intentional, conscious plan to keep God at the center of everything we do (pg.196)."
 

What is your current Rule for developing your spiritual life? 

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We encourage you to first identify your current plan/rhythm that is in place for growing your spiritual life.  This might be unconscious, so give yourself time and space to reflect on this.  Below are a few questions to help you get started.  

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- What do you value and prioritize in your spiritual life?  House church?  Small group?  Morning devotional?
- What are your current spiritual practices?  Morning prayer?  
- Are you on autopilot most days?  Going through the motions?
- Do you feel anchored in the love of God throughout your day?  If so, what anchors you?
- Do you live off of someone else's journey and spiritual life (through books, podcasts, articles, etc) rather than experiencing God for yourself?

Now that you have identified what is, we encourage you to dream about what could be as you begin to develop your own, unique Rule of Life to move forward.  Scazzero suggests a list of 12 elements to include in your Rule of Life (pg. 199).  Remember, you are God's own unique work of art.  Your Rule will look differently than your spouse's, roommate's, friends', etc.  You may want to include elements that he doesn't talk about, or not include some that he suggests...that is totally, 100% OK.  

Below are 4 suggestions to help you as you begin to develop your own Rule of Life:

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1.  Take your time.  Start with implementing only 1 or 2 elements for the first month or so.  This will involve a lot of trial and error, discovering what works best for you and what doesn't.

2.  Know yourself.  What spiritual practices bring you closer to God?  Which drive you away from him or distract you?

3.  Take care of your whole self.  Scazzero doesn't just include elements like prayer and solitude, but also ones like play & recreation, as well as care for your physical body & emotional health.  God is in everything, speaking to you through everything, including your physical body and fun.   

4.  Do not go alone.  Identify 2-3 people to invite into this process, to be part of this journey with you.  People to encourage you, as well as hold you accountable to your Rule.

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We hope that your journey this Summer through this book does not end where the pages end, but only prompts you to further discovery.  Further discovery of who God is and who you are in Him.  Below are some next steps to help you continue on this journey:

1. Formation Counseling  
If you would like a safe place to process further and deeper, we recommend these professional counselors, licensed in a variety of areas.  You can contact them at 678-326-8937.


2.  Additional Resources
Books 
"Boundaries" Cloud and Townsend
"Rising Strong" Brene Brown
"To be Told" Dan Allender  
"Ragamuffin Gospel" Brennan Manning
"Problem of Pain" CS Lewis
 
Videos

http://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability?language=en
http://www.boundariesbooks.com/videos/
https://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_listening_to_shame?language=en

3.  Pastoral Care
We as a staff are available to answer any questions or provide any guidance as you continue this journey.  Please email midtownpastor@gfc.tv for more info.

 

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Remember from the final sermon from our Summer series, death died when Christ was resurrected, and the sting of death is sin.  This means that we can change, we can grow, we can become new people.  Every time you choose to love, choose to use your power for good, choose to gather at the table with those who are different from you, you are living proof and  evidence of the life to come, which is all a work of the Spirit.

We want to close with the final words from the book. This is our prayer for each of you.


May God give you the courage to faithfully live your unique life in Christ.  And may love invade you.  It will never fail to teach you what you must do.

EHS - Chapter 9

Do you love? Do you know how to love?

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"Loving well is the goal of the Christian life."
 

Do you agree with this statement? Do you believe that life is more about who you are, and not what you do? Do you believe that it is more important to be with God versus doing things for God? This is one of the most common dilemmas in the Christian life: doing for God versus being with God. Remember the question from Rob's sermon a couple weeks ago: how do you measure your love for God? In how we love one another. Again, our love is not measured by all the countless things we do for Him, but instead in how we treat, love, respect, and honor one another. 


Scazzero writes, "One of the greatest things we can give our world is to be a community of emotionally healthy adults who love well."
 

While reading this chapter, we were immediately reminded of Rob's sermon on 1 Corinthians 13: love is power–it changes things. A people filled with God's love, who in turn love others, has the power to change so much.

Again, we ask, do you know how to love?  

Scazzero writes that people can't simply be told to love better, but they instead need practical skills integrated into their spiritual formation to help equip them into becoming mature, emotionally healthy adults. We have come up with 4 simple steps to help you unpack everything in this chapter and begin applying to your daily life.

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1. Rate Your Emotional Health
Read pgs. 178 & 179.

–Which stage are you in?  
–Which do you honestly identify with the most?

2. Evaluate Your Relationships
Look at and evaluate the relationships in your life. Scazzero provides numerous helpful tools to help love others well. Below are questions to help you identify possible emotionally unhealthy relationships in your life. We all have them, and hopefully these questions will help us diagnose the problem. 

–Are you practicing "I-Thou" or "I-It" in the majority of your relationships?  
–Is there "false peace” you need to disrupt at home? At work? With your parents? Your roommate? Your boss?
–Where do you have unresolved conflict?
–Have assumptions you've made played a role in this conflict?
–When have you recently been hurt and disappointed because of an unconscious expectation?
–Can you identify other expectations in your life that are currently unspoken and un-agreed upon by others?
–When was the last time you had an emotional "allergic reaction?” Can you identify something in your past that triggered this?

3. Discover the "Otherness" of Others
Open your your eyes to recognize the separateness of every person you come in contact with.

–How are the people around you different and separate from you? Your spouse? Your roommate? Your boss? Your neighbor?

–Can you delight in their unique, “otherness?"
–Do you see the value and worth in every person, no matter how different they may be from you?

4. Receive Love
Create time and space in your life to receive love. To receive the self-sacrificial love of the very God that designed you, who made you all that you are: you can't give away something that you haven't received.

–Do you believe that you are lovable?
–Do you believe that you are good?
–Do you delight in your own “otherness?" Do you like the parts of you that separate you from others?  
–Do you believe that God loves you, every part of you? That you were created with purpose?

> > > by Stefanie Drawdy

EHS - Chapter 8

"The essence of being in God's image is our ability, like God, to stop."

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What a powerful sentence. Just like we have discovered that our God is an emotional, feeling God, he is also one who stops to rest. This leads us to ask 2 important initial questions:

Do you know how to STOP? Do you value REST?  

 Before moving on, we encourage you to take time to evaluate your current rhythms, as well as the overall health of these rhythms, your life, and relationships. Below are helpful, prompting questions to get you started.

Q. 
–When is the last time you had a Sabbath? Not a day off, but a true, biblical Sabbath? (p. 166)
–How often throughout your day do you think about God's presence?   
–Do you feel anchored in the love of God?
–Where are you divided?  
–Where do you feel like you've lost your way?
–Where are you experiencing disagreements?  
–Where do you not feel whole? Disintegrated?  
–Do you say yes to too many things?
–Do you feel overworked, hurried, or preoccupied throughout your day?
–And finally, do you trust that God can run the world without you?

This final question gets to the heart of why stopping to rest is so important. Scazzero writes that it is only when we stop that we can fully surrender to God in trust. Trust that He is in control, not us. It is then that we recognize and respect our own humanity. Scazzero describes 2 disciplines that are the anchor to God and His love in the midst of even the darkest of circumstances: the Daily Office and Sabbath.

Q. How could these disciplines bring peace to the divisions and disagreements in your life? How could they transform your relationships, your health, your overall enjoyment of life?

We believe in the transformative power of these 2 disciplines, and have provided 3 steps to help you integrate them into your rhythm of life. 

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 1. Identify What Helps and What Doesn't (Daily Office)
The practice of the Daily Office looks different for every person.  

–Choose the time of day and length of time for your Daily Offices.
–Choose your content (specific resource/devotional, Psalms, worship, etc.).

Evaluate your daily rhythm and what works best for you, as well as what you want and desire from this time. Don't feel pressured to model what your friend, spouse, or roommate does. Discover what works best for you. 

 2. Identify What to Rest From (Sabbath)
One of the most important parts of Sabbath is figuring out what is work for you versus what brings you life.  

 Review the list on pg. 168. 
–What do you need to replace with rest on your Sabbath?
–What do you need to stop doing once a week?
–What is work for you?

3. Make a Plan
Create space throughout each day and week to cultivate the Daily Office and Sabbath into your normal rhythm of life.  Really commit to this rhythm, and reflect on how it affects your day and week overall.  Your productivity, your energy, your relationships, etc. 

–What day of the week makes the most sense?
–What brings you life? What do you enjoy doing that you normally don't have time for?
–How can you slow down throughout your day?
–How do you need to prepare for your Sabbath during the week?
–What tasks need to be added to a different day so you can fully enjoy your Sabbath?


Commit to your plan for the next 4 weeks. Evaluate what works and what doesn’t.  

 When we stop, we are invited into perichoerisis, the Divine Dance, the perfect indwelling of the Trinity in one another. All summer long we've been diving into this idea, and Scazzero lists it as one of the 4 foundational qualities of biblical Sabbath: to have fun and delight in the world around us, in all that God has given us.  

As you begin this journey of stopping, we encourage you to reflect back on Rob's teaching on 1 Corinthians 2. The question is not "does God speak,” but rather "are your ears awake?"  We don't want to just "get by" or “survive" our life. We want to be pioneers, to dream with God. As you incorporate the Daily Office and Sabbath into your life, make sure your "ears are awake" to all He is saying to you. Dream and delight in and with Him.

> > >  by Stefanie Drawdy

EHS - Chapter 7

Reality is where we find God.

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Scazzero mentions this earlier in the book, and expands on this point in Chapter 7 to help explain why grief is so important.

"The true spiritual life is not an escape from reality, but an absolute commitment to it. Loss marks the place where self-knowledge and powerful transformation happen–if we have the courage to participate fully in the process...The central message of Christ is that suffering and death bring resurrection and transformation...Resurrection only comes out of death–real death. Our losses are real. And so is our God, the living God."

We want to begin by asking: Are you in touch with your reality? Do you need a reality check in your life? 

These questions are an important place to start because, again, Scazzero stresses the importance of self-awareness. Only when we are self-aware of our limits, losses and pain can we move forward on the journey to transformation.  We encourage you to start by evaluating your reality. What do you need to grieve? What have you lost? What are your limits?  

Oftentimes we know the obvious, "proper" times to grieve (e.g. when a family member dies, a divorce or breakup, etc), but forget the smaller, daily things in our lives that we need to grieve as well (e.g. disappointment, unmet expectations, changes in friendships, etc.). All of these are losses, no matter how big or small, and all bring some level of pain that needs to be grieved.

With that in mind, Scazzero outlines the 5 stages of Biblical grieving drawn from the story of Job. Our hope is to help guide you along as you begin this process, so below are questions and suggestions to help you with each stage. Do not rush this, take your time.

1. Pay Attention

Pay attention to God and to yourself. Identify your loss, pain and limits. Be honest with yourself and God. Give yourself permission to feel your pain, no matter how big or small the limit or loss.

Q. Where in your life are you sad? Angry? Disappointed? Who/what have you lost?  What are your limits (pg.147)?  What can't you do?  What are you lacking?

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2. Wait in the Confusing In-Between

Identify how you normally cope with loss and pain. Review the defense mechanisms on pg. 141 and 142: which one(s) do you commonly use to protect yourself from pain? Rather than try to control your pain by running, medicating or hiding, practice sitting and being present in the confusion. Create space to be aware and awake to the great mystery of who God is.

Q. How does your theology of God explain suffering and pain? Do you believe your suffering "makes sense?" Is it deserved? Do you believe that your suffering and loss is correlated with what you do/don't do for God? Or because of sin in your life?

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3. Embrace the Gifts of Limits

Identify your limits (pg. 147). Which resonate with you most? Identify how you normally handle and respond to your limits. Do you burn out? Do you get depressed?  Do you blame others (pg. 148)?

Q. Can you embrace not only your limits, but also the limits of those around you? Can you accept who you are, with all of your limits and know that you are enough?

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4. Climb the Ladder of Humility

Identify where you are on the ladder of humility (pg. 150). Make a daily choice to choose love over revenge, blame and bitterness.

Q. Have you surrendered your own self-will to God's will? How do you respond to the limits and faults of those around you? Are you open to accepting God's will as it comes through others?Identify how you are being someone you are not.

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5. Let the Old Birth the New

Just like the Wall changes you if you let it, grief will bless you if you allow it. Resurrection can only come from death.

Q. Do you trust God with all the pain, loss and limits you have and will experience? Can you fully let go and trust God with all of your limits and losses, closing the door to old relationships, expectations, dreams, etc?

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We hope these questions help you dive deeper into each stage as you search your heart and become more aware of who you are and where you are at on the journey. As you begin to experience the pain and suffering that comes with grief, we want to remind you of Rob's sermon from 2 weeks ago on "The Table." You are not alone. Remember, the table was always meant to remind us of the cross. At the cross, Jesus stands in solidarity with anyone who suffers, he is broken for you and broken with you. When we suffer, he suffers. It is a place to mourn, to grieve, to repent. God meets us there to bring peace. 

> > > by Stefanie Drawdy

EHS - Chapter 6

THE WALL

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Chapter 6 is anything but a nice, light reading for your week. Much like the events in our country over the past week, this chapter covers intense topics like confusion, crisis, and the "dark night of the soul." Although it is challenging to read, there are several things we want to highlight from this chapter in hopes that they bring you encouragement when you face your Wall.

This blog will focus on identifying the WALL in our lives, however, we do want you to begin by taking some time to read through the stages of faith on page 119 & 120. Evaluate your life today: where do you think you are? Knowing this will help you continue on this journey to emotionally healthy spirituality.

What is the WALL?

Quite simply, it is a season in your faith when you feel stuck, lost, or confused.

Even though we are taught that God is good, when we encounter all the mysteries and confusion in life, we come face-to-face with the question, "is God really good?" This is what the Wall is all about.   

Scazzero describes hitting the Wall: "We discover for the first time that our faith does not appear to “'work.' We have more questions than answers as the very foundations of our faith feels like it is on the line. We don't know where God is, what he is doing, where he is going, how he is getting us there, or when this will be over."

Have you ever experienced this before? Are you experiencing it right now? When you look at all that has happened in our country and around the world in the past week, you might be asking, "where is God in all of this?" What other questions do you have? What about your faith isn't “working?" Do you feel alone or abandoned by God? What walls have you experienced in the past? How did you walk through them, or did you run from them? Don't be afraid or ashamed of how you answer these questions.

Now, why is the Wall so important? Scazzero highlights it is where we can find God, know Him in a more intimate way, and grow into the mature, free people he created us to be. Scazzero describes how we are changed when we come out the other side:

"We have tasted what it means to live in union with the love of God through Christ in the Holy Spirit. We have learned...the secret of being content in any and every situation. We have become whole and holy. We have become, finally, our true selves in Christ."

Again, the goal is to uncover our true selves and continue to shed the layers of our false selves that we have taken on over time. We know that we are free in Christ and that He desires to continually teach us how to be free, and the Wall is a huge part of that.  We have to make it through the Wall(s) in our lives in order to continue to move forward as the people God has created us to be.

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So, where do we start? Being able to journey through the Wall requires an emotionally healthy faith in God. Let's start by evaluating our faith using the following questions:

>> Can you admit when you are confused, frustrated, or angered by the circumstances in your life?

>> Can you admit that not everything in life makes sense?

>> Can you admit when you feel like God is far away or has forgotten or abandoned you?

>> Can you admit these things without feeling guilt or shame?

Next, it is important to be able to identify when you have hit a Wall. Scazzero writes that there is a big difference between a trial in our lives versus the Wall. Use the following questions to help identify if you might be hitting the Wall:

>> Do you feel like God has gone silent? Do you feel like your prayers fall on deaf ears?

>> Do you feel spiritually dry, helpless and weary?

>> Do you struggle to "encounter God?" Does your normal routine not work anymore?

>> Do you want to quit? Quit going to church? Quit trusting in God?

>> Do you feel stuck?  

>> Do you question yourself, God, and/or the church?

If these questions resonate with you, you might be encountering a Wall.

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Finally, how do you journey through the Wall? Don't give up. Persevere. Don't run from the pain, mystery and confusion. Instead, lean into it. 

Scazzero writes, "God powerfully invades us when we persevere patiently through this suffering.  Our great temptation is to quit or to go backwards, but if we remain still, listening for his voice, God will insert something of Himself into our character that will mark the rest of our journey with Him."

Next time you face the Wall, walk through it. Allow it to change you. It is at the Wall that we learn what true faith is–trusting in God even when we don't feel Him.

> > > by Stefanie Drawdy

 

EHS - Chapter 5

The title of Chapter 5 is Going Back in Order to Go Forward. So, let's start with going back to what Scazzero writes in Chapter 1.

"We can't change–or better said, invite God to change us–when we are unaware and do not see the truth...Pain has an amazing ability to open us to new truth and to get us moving."

For many of us, this might be the hardest, most painful part of the journey to emotionally healthy spirituality. Going back in order to come face-to-face with our past and how it has shaped our lives today is probably something we would all love to avoid or put off. The reality is that we all have baggage from our past; there's no escaping that truth. Facing it, rather than running from it, is what will make all the difference for our lives in the here and now.

Scazzero writes, "True spirituality frees us to live joyfully in the present. It requires, however, going back in order to go forward...breaking free from the destructive sinful patterns of our pasts to live the life of love God intends."    

Are you a joyful person? Do you experience joy everyday? If not, can you remember the last time you felt joy?

Scazzero makes it clear that we won't ever experience true joy in the present without first going back to our past. This journey has to begin with knowing our true selves, and we can't fully do that without first going back to what shaped and formed us from the very beginning. Before we dive into how you can begin this process of going back, we want to start by asking you one simple question:

Are you afraid to go back?  

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If so, why? Are you scared of what you will find? Or do you know what you will find and try to avoid it at all costs? Again, we recognize that this might be one of the hardest things for many of you to do because of the pain attached to your past. So, take your time. If you are afraid and not ready to go back, that's OK. Be where you are. If all you have to bring Him today is your fear, then do that. He will meet you in that place.

Now, in Chapter 5, Scazzero provides several exercises on how to go back (listed below), and we encourage you to do them. Again, take your time, there is no rush. Maybe start with one of the exercises below and see what you discover.

Identify patterns/imprints you see throughout your family. Go back as far as 2-3 generations. Are there patterns of abuse? Divorce? What are the patterns for gender roles? Raising a family? Sexuality? 

Identify the rules or commandments you grew up with, both spoken and unspoken.

How have these patterns/imprints/rules affected your current relationships? How have they affected how you view yourself, and even how you view God?

Read through the Beaver System Model on pg 111.

Which best describes your family growing up? Which describes your current family? How has your family origin affected the way you live your life today?

Scazzero concludes this chapter with the story of Joseph, which is such a powerful model of what it looks like to go back in order to go forward. Below are the 4 ways that Joseph was able to do this in a healthy, fruitful way. There is something for each of us in this story that God wants to highlight. We've provided questions with each to help prompt you into discovering what that is for you. What did you learn from Joseph's story?

1.  Have a Profound Sense of the Bigness of God

This all comes down to trusting and surrendering to a God much greater than we will ever know or comprehend. What have you experienced that you still don't understand?  What circumstances in your past that brought such pain and loss still remains a mystery to you? Do you still believe God is good even after experiencing pain, loss and confusion? Is God a safe place for you?

2.  Admit Honestly the Sadness, Loss and Pain of Your Family

What do you need to grieve? What hurt and pain do you need give yourself permission to feel?  You might need to grieve things that happened decades ago.

3.  Rewrite Your Life Script According to Scripture

What do you need to rewrite about yourself? Your life? What lies do you believe about yourself? What "old patterns" are you using that need to die? How are these patterns affecting your current relationships? Bring all of these to God and let him rewrite your story with His truth, love and grace.

Scazzero writes that these “scripts" we develop early on 'powerfully influence our present relationships and behaviors as well as our self esteem.'

4.  Partner with God to Be a Blessing

What do you need to let go of? What/who are you holding onto? What relationships do you need to entrust God with?

> > > by Stefanie Drawdy

 

EHS - Chapter 4

WHO AM I?

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I don't know about you, but there have been times when this question has haunted me. To answer it can often bring fear and anxiety, yet this is exactly where our journey to emotionally healthy spirituality must begin: knowing ourselves so that we might know God.  

Are you living someone else's life?

This is a trap that so many of us fall into and what Chapter 4 unpacks. Below we have pulled the main themes from this chapter, as well as provided questions and suggestions to help guide you in the discovery of your true self.

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 1. FEELINGS & SELF AWARENESS.  

One of the first key ways in distinguishing between your false self and true self is to ask, “am I neglecting certain feelings?"

Go Deeper

Are there certain emotions you don't allow yourself to feel, that you think are wrong to feel? What "rules" have you created against different emotions and feelings?

Challenge Yourself

Allow yourself to feel. Feel the full weight of what's going on inside of you. What do you discover when you allow yourself to do this? Make note of how your body responds to different emotions or circumstances (your palms get sweaty, your heart beats quickly, you feel like you could throw up, etc). What is your body trying to tell you? Journal! Write down what you discover and observe as you feel different emotions, maybe for the first time.

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2.  IDENTITY

Another key way to discovering your true self is to ask, ‘“how do I know I am worthy or have value?"

Go Deeper

Do you believe you are worthy and have value? What do you believe gives you worth/value? Do you think it is something you earn or achieve for? Have you experienced God's immeasurable love and acceptance of you? What was that experience like, and what did God say to you? What did you feel?

Challenge Yourself

Read each of the temptations and evaluate how you measure your value and worth. Identifying this "false identity" is the first step in no longer living a pretend life consumed with what we do, what we have, and what people think. Which one resonates with you the most? Why? Reflect/journal on what you discover about yourself. Again, allow yourself to feel.  

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3. DIFFERENTIATION 

One final key way Scazzero describes to identify your true self is to ask, "am I living someone else's expectations for my life?"

Go Deeper

Be honest when reviewing the Differentiation Scale on page 83. Where do you find yourself? How does that make you feel? Are you surprised?

Challenge Yourself

Make a list of your personality, gifts, goals, values, talents, temperament, your likes and dislikes–these are all part of the discernment and discovery of your true self. Practice differentiating between the goals and values and personality that other people have put on you over the years versus those that are truly yours. 

> > > by Stefanie Drawd

 

EHS - Chapter 3

After two chapters of unpacking and discovering the emotionally unhealthy spirituality in our lives, you are probably more than ready to dive into not just what this whole emotionally healthy spirituality thing is, but how to have it.  In the following chapters, Scazzero describes the eight pathways to experience emotionally healthy spirituality, but first, he uses Chapter 3 to define what emotional health and contemplative spirituality are, as well as why they are so important.

Scazzero writes, "The point is simple: there are powerful spiritual breakthroughs that can take place deep below the surface of our iceberg when the riches of both contemplative spirituality and emotional health are joined together...Together they form a furnace where God's love burns away what is false and unreal and where the force of his fierce and purifying love sets us free to in the truth of Jesus." 

This excerpt pretty much sums up the entirety of Chapter 3, and why living this way is so transformational. Within this chapter, Scazzero also provides three gifts that come with the integration of emotional health and contemplative spirituality into our lives. We encourage you to take note of how you feel when you read the description of each of these gifts in the book. Are you excited, hopeful, anxious as you read about these gifts? Do you feel a need/desire for these gifts in your life? Do you feel a lacking of one or more of these gifts in your everyday life? If so, which ones?  

We have listed the three gifts below, along with a few thought-provoking questions for each. These questions are meant to help you discover how/where in your life you need to experience the transformative power of emotionally healthy spirituality. This assessment will be helpful for the chapters to come.

1. THE GIFT OF SLOWING DOWN

Are you paying attention to God? What is your inner person like? What are your priorities?  Is Jesus your center of gravity?

2.  THE GIFT OF ANCHORING IN GOD'S LOVE

Do you resonate with any of the negative/false beliefs listed on page 53?  Review the list on page 55 of “relating to God.” Where do you find yourself? What is your image of God like? Does it need to be healed?

3.  THE GIFT OF BREAKING FREE ILLUSIONS 

What illusions do you believe? What can you not live without? What are you attached to? Status, success, attention?

We hope that you do experience some sense of hope as you read what could be when you integrate emotional health and contemplative spirituality into your life. We can't stress enough how much we believe in this integration.  

 Emotional health anchors us in the love of God, affirming that we are worthy of feeling and worthy of being alive and loved, even when we are brutally honest about what's going on in our lives. It grounds us in our true identity as a child of God, deeply loved and made in His image. It is what connects us to God's love for us, that we might love others. Contemplative spirituality is what deepens and matures our relationship with God. It is what keeps us aware of His love throughout our day, no matter what we are doing or where we are going. It is what grounds us and helps us to love God with our whole being.  

You can't have one without the other and fully be who God has created you to be. Both are powerful things to engage with separately, but when integrated together they can transform “the hidden places deep beneath the surface.”

> > > by Stefanie Drawdy

EHS - Chapter 2

We hope that last week you were able to do a brief 'assessment' of your emotionally healthy spirituality by simply looking at your emotions, or lack there of.  In Chapter 2, Scazzero goes into much more detail about what emotionally unhealthy spirituality looks like by giving the Top Ten Symptoms to look out for.  This week we encourage you to take some time to evaluate your life again, but with these symptoms in mind.  Invite God to show where or which symptoms exist in your life, your marriage, your relationships.  

Below we have provided each symptom, along with questions or challenges to go with each.  We hope these questions will help you dive head first into the depths of your internal life, possibly discovering that you experience at least 1 or more of these symptoms.  These questions are challenging to write, so we know they will be challenging to not only read, but to ask yourself.

Scazzero writes, 'The pathway to unleashing the transformative power of Jesus to heal our spiritual lives can be found in the joining of emotional health and contemplative spirituality.'

Before we can ever experience this healing power, we have to first diagnose the problem by asking the hard questions.  

1.  Using God to Run from God

Take a look at all the 'God-activity' in your life.  Honestly look at your motives behind these 'good works'.  Search your heart.  Is there anything you might be running from or avoiding by filling every moment with a different activity?

2.  Ignoring the Emotions of Anger, Sadness, and Fear

Do you feel permission to admit and express your feelings, all of them, openly?  Do you think your feelings are not to be trusted?  Do you find yourself devaluing or repressing certain feelings or emotions?  What 'false confidences' do you use to ignore certain feelings, such as fear or shame?

3.  Dying to the Wrong Things

What are your passions, desires, and dreams?  Do you feel guilty for having these desires and passions?  Have you 'laid down' some of these for God? Are there 'good' parts of your life and who you are that you have 'laid down' that God is inviting you to 'pick up' again?

4.  Denying the Past's Impact on the Present

Look at your relationships.  How you work through conflict.  How you define success or self worth.  What are you mirroring?  Do you notice any unhealthy patterns you've picked up from your past, your family?

5.  Dividing Our Lives into "Secular" and "Sacred" Compartments

Is God compartmentalized to only certain parts of your life?  If so, which ones?  Can you find God even in the most mundane activities throughout your day?

6.  Doing for God Instead of Being with God

Do you receive your worth and value from what you do?  Evaluate your motives behind all the 'work' you do for God.  Is it to earn approval?  To earn value or purpose?  Do you feel a pressure that 'it is all up to you'?

7.  Spiritualizing Away Conflict 

How do you handle conflict?  Do you blame others?  Attack?  Or maybe you avoid it all together.  Look at the relationships in your life.  Is there any 'false peace' that needs to be disrupted in your life?

8.  Covering Over Brokenness, Weakness, and Failure

What pressures do you feel?  The pressure to have all the answers?  The pressure to never make a mistake?  Are you afraid to let people see or know how you really feel or think?  

Identify moments when you are comparing your life and journey to someone else's.   Do you feel like you come up short?

9.  Living Without Limits

Are you experiencing contentment in your life, or are you exhausted and over-committed?  Do you even think you have limits?  How are you taking care of yourself?  Do you struggle with saying 'no'?  Or feel guilty when you do?

10.  Judging Other People's Spiritual Journey

Who do you receive from?  Do you believe that everyone, created in God's image, has something unique to offer, something you could receive?  What unconscious categories/stereotypes have you created based on judgements?

Again, we know that evaluating our lives in such a deep, personal way will lead all of us to experience some level of pain, and we want you to know that is OK and is all part of this journey.

Scazzero writes, 'To feel is to be human.  To minimize or deny what we feel is a distortion of what it means to be image bearers of our personal God.  To the degree that we are unable to express our emotions, we remain impaired in our ability to love God, others, and ourselves as well.'

To cut our feelings out of our spirituality is to 'slice off a part of our humanity.'  We encourage you to lean in, move towards what you feel as you go through these questions.  Again, you are not alone.  There is no judgement, no condemnation.  Just as Scazzero writes, we are all weak, vulnerable and dependent on God and others, no matter what our gifts, talents, and strengths may be.  Give yourself permission to feel.  This Sunday, Rob mentioned how Jesus definitely experienced feelings and emotions.  He was constantly moved and driven by feelings of compassion and love.  Trust that God is one who feels, and will only continue to move toward you with feelings of love and compassion as you journey with him. 

> > > by Stefanie Drawdy

EMOTIONALLY HEALTHY

Here we are, at the beginning of what we hope to be a powerful, transformative journey over the summer as we read Emotionally Healthy Spirituality together.  We will send out weekly reflections/challenges/applications, key questions that we hope will equip each of you to dive deeper into this journey with your family, house church, etc.  We also believe this book will integrate well with the teachings on Sundays throughout the summer.  Remember from Sunday that at the center of the Universe is a community.  If God is 3-in-1, then we can experience unity within our marriages, our house churches, and most importantly, within ourselves.  This is what this book is all about: finding and experiencing unity and harmony within ourselves through emotional health and contemplative spirituality.

After reading the first chapter of the book, it is evident that we won't get anywhere on this journey if we can't first be honest and aware of what's going on inside of us

Scazzero writes, 'We can't change-or better said, invite God to change us-when we are unaware and do not see the truth.'

Chapter 2 will dive deeper into what emotionally unhealthy spirituality looks like.  Before diving into this, we want to encourage each of you to do an emotional healthy spirituality “assessment” of your own life throughout this week.  The author realized there was a problem when he began to recognize/become aware of his lack of certain emotions (joy, happiness, contentment), and his abundance of others (anger, shame, bitterness).  Not only did he observe his own emotions and reactions, but also the feelings of his family and those closest to him.

 

Let's start this journey together by looking honestly at our lives and the lives of those we are close to. Are the fruits of the Spirit present in your life?  To what degree?  Under what circumstances?  Rob's questions from Sunday's teaching will be invaluable to this assessment as well...where are the disagreements in your life?  Where are you not whole?  Where are divisions in your life?  This book will stir up things inside each of us we probably didn't know were there or that we simply can't ignore anymore.  This awareness of what is in our life will come with some level of pain. 

Scazzero writes, 'Pain has an amazing ability to open us to new truth and to get us moving...I never expected God to meet me through feelings such as sadness, depression, and anger.'  

 

We believe that the best way to go on this journey is in community, and encourage you to process and share what you learn and discover along the way within your house church or family–with those closest to you. Surround yourself with people you trust and feel safe and free to be who you are, right where you are at. You are not alone. We as a staff are on this journey as well, and are available to answer any questions. So, please feel free to email Justin Fry, who is over Pastoral Care, at midtownpastor@gfc.tv, with any questions or needed guidance along your journey of integrating emotional health and spirituality.

> > > by Stef Drawdy Operations & Connections Director

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A House Church Story

“When you’re part of a house church, you’re not allowed to go through anything by yourself […] we have found it to be so satisfying to live [like Acts 2] and have all things in common with each other.” Through changes and shifts, house church is a community that is ultimately oriented around Jesus: “In a lot of cases that’s all we have in common and then we learn the res “When you’re part of a house church, you’re not allowed to go through anything by yourself. We have found it to be so satisfying to live like Acts 2 and have all things in common with each other.” Through changes and shifts, house church is a community that is ultimately oriented around Jesus: “In a lot of cases that’s all we have in common and then we learn the rest.